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Kingston upon Thames is the principal settlement of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thamesmarker in south-west Londonmarker.

It was the ancient market town where Saxon kings were crowned and is now a suburb situated south west of Charing Crossmarker. It is one of the major metropolitan centres identified in the London Plan.


Kingston in 1846
Kingston was built at the first crossing point of the Thames upstream from London Bridgemarker and a bridgemarker still exists at the same site. Kingston was occupied by the Roman, and later it was either a royal residence or a royal demesne. There is a record of a council held there in 838, at which Egbert of Wessex, King of Wessex, and his son Ethelwulf of Wessex were present; and in this record it is styled Kyningestun famosa illa locus. In Old English, tun, ton or don meant farmstead - so the name Kingston may have been thought to mean farmstead of the kings. Seven Saxon kings are traditionally said to have been crowned at Kingston, while seated on a large stone - The Coronation Stonemarker - that stands outside the Guildhall. There is a local rumour that these Saxon coronations gave Kingston its name, but the records of the 838 council disprove this.

Kingston upon Thames appears in Domesday Book of 1086 as Chingestone and Chingetun(e). It was held by William the Conqueror. Its domesday assets were: a church, five mills, three fisheries worth 10s, 27 ploughs, of meadow, woodland worth six hog. It rendered £30.

The first of the charters given to the town of Kingston was granted by King John in 1200 but the oldest one to survive is from 1208 and this document is housed in the town's archives. Other charters were issued by later kings, including Edward IV's charter that gave the town the status of a borough in 1481.Some interesting relics have been discovered to support this history, and statues of some of the Saxon kings and of King John were preserved in a chapel. In 1730 the chapel containing the royal effigies collapsed, burying the sexton, who was digging a grave, the sexton's daughter and another person. The daughter survived this accident and was her father's successor as sexton.Another chapel, The Lovekyn Chapel, still exists. It was founded in 1309 by a former mayor of London, Edward Lovekynmarker. It is the only private chantry chapel to survive the Reformation.

Kingston sent members to early Parliament, until a petition by the inhabitants prayed to be relieved from the burden.

Information board about the parish of Kingston upon Thames.

Kingston was one of the ancient boroughs to be reformed by the Municipal Corporations Act 1835, becoming the Municipal Borough of Kingston upon Thamesmarker. It retained this status until the London Government Act 1963 came into force in 1965, merging Kingston upon Thames with the Municipal Borough of Surbitonmarker and the Municipal Borough of Malden and Coombemarker to form the London Borough of Kingston upon Thamesmarker. At the request of the Council, Queen Elizabeth II granted Kingston another Royal Charter in 1965 entitling it to continue using the title "Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames" for the enlarged Borough. Before becoming part of Greater London in 1965, Kingston was in the county of Surreymarker, and some confusion continues because the county hall and offices of Surrey County Councilmarker are still in Kingston. For river users, Kingston is still on the "Surrey" bank.

For much of the 20th century, Kingston was a major military aircraft manufacturing centre - first with Sopwith, then Hawker Aviation and eventually British Aerospace.

The growth and development of Kingston Polytechnic and its transformation into Kingston Universitymarker has made Kingston a university town.

Kingston today

Central Kingston is a busy predominantly retail centre, with a small number of commercial offices and civic buildings. It has a great many car parks, connected by a notoriously difficult one-way system. It is one of the main centres of the south west London bus network, and it is connected to Twickenhammarker, Richmondmarker, Wimbledonmarker, and London Waterloomarker by National Rail trains.
Kingston Bridge with John Lewis in the background.
Shopping is well catered for and is generally towards the upper end of expectations, with a good mixture of familiar High Street chains and more select boutiques. The shopping centre includes a shopping mall, "The Bentall Centre", containing the Bentallsmarker department store and large branches of chain stores found in many British high streets. There is a large branch of the John Lewis department store group, with a Waitrose supermarket, located in the basement. The Rotunda, located in the former Bentalls furniture depository building (a local landmark), includes a bowling alley, fitness centre, a 14-screen Odeon multiplex cinema and some restaurants. Recent developments along the riverside south of Kingston Bridge have added bars, restaurants and a theatre, the Rose Theatremarker which opened in 2008 with Sir Peter Hall as the director. The ancient market is still held daily in the Market Place.

Kingston's civic buildings include the Guildhall which houses Kingston Councilmarker and the magistrates' court, There is also the county court, a local museum and public library. A short distance away is the new crown court building, adjacent to the County Hallmarker Building which houses the main offices of Surreymarker County Council. Until local government re-organisation in 1965 when Kingston became one of the 33 boroughs of Greater Londonmarker, it was the County Town of Surrey. Guildfordmarker now has this title as Kingston is no longer administered by Surrey. Plans to move these offices to Wokingmarker have been scrapped.

Kingston's main open space is the River Thames, with its lively frontage of bars and restaurants. Downstream there is a walk through Canbury Gardens towards Teddington Lockmarker. Upstream there is a promenade crossing the Hogsmill river and reaching almost to Surbiton. Across Kingston Bridge is a tree lined river bank fronting the expanse of Hampton Court Park.

One of the more unusual sights in Kingston is several disused red telephone boxes that have been tipped up to lean against one another in an arrangement resembling dominoes. This sculpture by David Mach was commissioned in 1988 as part of the landscaping for the new Relief Road, and is called Out of Order.

The sculpture "Out of Order"


Kingston is the home of two non-league association football clubs, Kingstonian F.C. and AFC Wimbledon, both of which play at the Kingsmeadow Stadiummarker.

Kingston Athletic Club and Polytechnic Harriers - as of 2009, competing in the National Two division of the British Athetics League - are based at the neighbouring Kingsmeadow athetics stadium.

Kingston Rugby Club is based on the outskirts of the town and Kingston Rowing Clubmarker is based on the River Thames. Kingston Regatta takes place on the river at the town in July.

Eating and drinking

Kingston has many pubs and restaurants, though several public houses in centre have closed in recent years to become restaurants or bars. The more traditional pubs tend to be in the northern part of the town (Canbury) and include the Park Tavern, Wych Elm and Willoughby Arms. Further south are found the Druid's Head, the Spring Grove, and several small local pubs around Fairfield. The Druid's Head is notable as one of the first taverns to make the famous dessert syllabub in the 18th century. There are several Chinese, Indian, Thai and Italian restaurants.

Politics and religion

Kingston straddles two Parliamentary constituencies: the area north of the railway line is part of Richmond Parkmarker represented by Susan Kramer; the area south of the railway line (which includes the ancient town centre) is part of Kingston and Surbitonmarker represented by Edward Davey. Both Members of Parliament are members of the Liberal Democrat party.

Ecclesiastically, Kingston lies in the Church of England Diocese of Southwarkmarker and Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Southwarkmarker. The suffragan or Area Bishop of Kingston is the Rt Rev. Dr Richard Ian Cheetham.

Kingston is also the home of the Kingston Synagogue and Kingston Liberal Synagogue.

Kingston also has a Quaker meeting house and a Mosque

Kingston Green Fair

Kingston Green Fair was held annually from 1987 to 2008 in Canbury Gardens, next to the river, on the Spring Bank Holiday. The word "Green" in the title refers to the ethos of the fair as promoting sustainable development. For instance no meat or other products derived from dead animals were allowed to be sold, and no electricity was permitted on the site unless generated by wind, sun, or bicycle power.


For education in Kingston upon Thames see the main Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames article.

There are several schools in Kingston including, Kingston Grammar Schoolmarker, Canbury Schoolmarker, Marymount International School , Tiffin Schoolmarker (boys), Tiffin Girls' Schoolmarker. Kingston is also home to Kingston Universitymarker and Kingston Collegemarker.


The town is served by two railway stations on a line into Waterloo Stationmarker via New Maldenmarker and Wimbledonmarker or via Richmond upon Thamesmarker (the long way round). The local stations are: Kingstonmarker and Norbitonmarker. Two additional railway stations located on the main line in nearby Surbitonmarker which has a more frequent service and Berrylands.

The A3 road runs from central London towards Kingston before by-passing the town to the east. The "Kingston bypass road" was one of the first arterial roads to be built in Britain. It was originally proposed in 1912 to relieve the pressure of traffic in the town centre, but World War I delayed the start of work until 1924. It was opened by Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin on 28 October 1927. Kingston is also served by the A240, the A307 , A308 and A310.

Riverboats run regularly between Kingston and Hampton Court as well as Richmond all during the summer season. There are also direct services to Putney and Westminster from Hampton Court.


The most notable dramatic arts venue is the Rose Theatremarker. All Saints Church is host to classical choral and music concerts mostly on Saturdays and houses a Frobenius organ. There are a number of choral societies including the Kingston Orpheus Choir and the Kingston Choral Society. A number annual of festivals are organised by the Council and Kingston Arts Council including Kingston Readers' Festival, Think-in-Kingston and the Festival of the Voice. Kingston University runs the Stanley Picker Gallery and Kingston Museum has a changing gallery on the first floor.


Kingston has been covered in literature, film and television. It is where the comic Victorian novel Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome begins; cannons aimed against the Martians in H. G. Wells' The War of the Worlds are positioned on Kingston Hill; in The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence the youngest Brangwen dreams of a job in Kingston upon Thames in a long, lyrical passage; Mr. Knightly in Emma by Jane Austen regularly visits Kingston, although the narrative never follows him there. Kingston is referenced (and used as a filming location) in episodes of Monty Python. More recently, a scene from Mujhse Dosti Karoge, a Bollywood film, was filmed by the toppled telephone boxes. This had Hrithik Roshan as the leading actor. A scene in the television programme The Good Life sees Richard Briers get on a 71 bus in 'The Avenue' towards Kingston town centre, albeit this route never served that east side of Surbiton. Nipper, the famous "His Master's Voice" dog, is buried (1895) in the town under Lloyds Bank. His owners lived nearby in Fife Road. Also, the 2008 series of 'Primeval', shown on ITV1 in January, featured almost an entire episode filmed inside the Bentall Centremarker and John Lewis department stores. Kingston featured in Primeval again in May 2009 with several scenes shot in and around the Market Square.

Notable people

See also alumini of local schools, colleges and the university
Notable people born in the town include James Squire, transported convict and brewer in Australia (1754), John Cleland (1709) and John Galsworthy (1867), both authors, Eadweard Muybridge, photographer (1830), Donald Campbell, car and motorboat racer (1921), John Cooper, auto engineer (1923), Derek Bourgeois, composer (1941), Dave Swarbrick, folk fiddle player (1941), Nigel Barley, anthropologist (1947), Steven Wilson, musician (1967), Tom Rowlands of the Chemical Brothers (1971), Jonny Lee Miller (1972), and Kelly Reilly (1977), both actors, Steven Reid, footballer (1981), Rat Scabies (Christopher Millar) (1957), of The Damned.

International links

Although not officially 'twinned', The Royal Borough of Kingston has a partner city of Oldenburgmarker in Germanymarker and Gwanak-gu, an administrative subdivision of Seoulmarker, in South Koreamarker. Some road signs announce that Kingston is linked with Delftmarker in the Netherlandsmarker but this official link has ended.


Sources consulted

  • – A guide to the Thames written by the novelist's son.


External links

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